Everyone knows you can defend yourself in your home. But what about protecting other property?
Using Force to Defend Property
Florida Statute 776.031 allows a person to use or threaten to use non-deadly force if: they reasonably believe such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on, or tortious or criminal interference with, either real property other than a dwelling or personal property, lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect.
Now that we have discussed the laws, let’s apply it to a scenario.
It is close to bedtime and as you’re walking around your house making sure all the doors are locked you notice someone on your property looking at your car parked at the end of your driveway. At this point, you have the legal right to open the door and yell at him to get off your property. And if he does not do so, Florida law allows you to either use or threaten to use non-deadly force to expel the person from your property.
What you cannot do is take out your firearm and let a round off in the air, as that is the use of deadly force. If while watching the person he decides to smash out your car window and reach into your car to take something, you once again would only be allowed to use or threaten to use non-deadly force to try and prevent him from taking your stuff. A lot of people have the mistaken belief that in this situation a person would be justified using deadly force.
Florida Statute 776.013 allows a person to use deadly force against another when that other person was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, OR if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle: so long as the person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe than an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
The key here is that the law allows the use of deadly force if the vehicle is occupied. When your car is parked outside your home and no none is in it, it’s just another piece of property and therefore Florida Statute 776.031 applies and not the Castle Doctrine. If the person takes off with your property from the car before you can stop him, you are justified in running after him to get your property back. But if you do catch up to him, you can only use non-deadly force to get your property back.
I highly recommend if the person is running away, consider other options besides trying to chase them down, such as calling 911. The only time a person is justified in using deadly force to protect property is if he or she reasonably believes such force is needed to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, such as a robbery. But in that situation, you are really protecting yourself, not the property.
An example of this would be if you pulled up in your driveway and someone comes to your window with a gun and tries to carjack you. In that situation, the attacker is attempting to take your property, but because he’s trying to take it by committing a forcible felony, you would be allowed to use deadly force.
It is critical that you completely understand these legal concepts. If you have any questions about your rights to defend your property or any other self-defense law in Florida, don’t hesitate to call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.